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As California’s elementary schools reopen after prolonged physical closure due to COVID-19, attention to healing the school community will be essential. Although there is wide variation in the timing and formats with which schools plan to reopen, it is clear that when students reenter school buildings they will be eager to reconnect with friends and teachers. Because elementary school-aged children learn and grow through play, recess is an ideal time to support healing and to prepare students to return to the classroom ready to learn.

A Summary of the PACE Policy Research Panel
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More than 725,000 of California’s K-12 students qualified for special education services in 2018-19, but they entered a system that is often ill-equipped to serve them. This brief summarizes the findings from the PACE Policy Research Panel on Special Education: Organizing Schools to Serve Students with Disabilities in California. We find opportunities for improvement in early screening, identification, and intervention; transitions into and out of special education services; educator preparation and ongoing support; and availability of mental and physical health services.

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Only about 10 percent of eligible infants and toddlers with developmental delays nationwide receive early intervention services, which are widely agreed to reduce delays and lessen the adverse effects of risk factors and disabilities on learning and development. California serves fewer children than the national average. Challenges arise from spotty screening; tenuous linkages to referral and evaluation; and the intricacies of crossing multiple agencies—sometimes without knowledge of  English—for families.

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California continues to fall below national averages in identifying and serving infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with developmental disabilities. The transition between infant/toddler services, administered by the Department of Developmental Services, and preschool services for 3- to 5-year-olds, administered by the Department of Education, is fraught with several factors that hinder progress.

Evidence from the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier Voter Poll
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Governor Gavin Newsom campaigned on a “cradle to career” education strategy that identified childcare and early education as key priorities. The Governor’s 2019 Budget Proposal follows through with the inclusion of several initiatives aimed at increasing support for children five and younger.

What It Takes
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Access to affordable preschool programs is a crucial issue for improving kindergarten readiness for 3- to 5-year-olds, but research shows that the quality of teaching and learning in those programs is just as essential. Across the country, states are boosting preschool policy standards and strengthening educational requirements for preschool teachers. California has not been at the forefront of this effort. But newly elected Governor Gavin Newsom is making preschool quality a signature issue of his administration.
Evidence to Inform Policy
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Governor Newsom’s first Budget Proposal increases funding for education in California. There are areas of substantive overlap in the Budget Proposal and research findings from the Getting Down to Facts II (GDTFII) research project, released in September 2018, which built an evidence base on the current status of California education and implications for paths forward.

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More than 24 million children ages 5 and younger live in the United States, and about one in eight of them—a little over 3 million—lives in California. Compared to the rest of the country, California has about twice as many children ages 5 and under who are first- or second-generation immigrants and live in families in which the adults are not fluent in English. About one in five of all children ages 5 and younger in California live in poverty, and nearly half of California’s children live in households that are at or near the poverty level.